The outdoor life doesn’t get much simpler than a kayak, a paddle and a PFD (Personal Flotation Device.)
We joined local paddler, Marty Giles, (Wavecrest Discoveries) who said you need little more than those items plus a ‘spirit of adventure’ to travel the Siltcoos River Canoe Trail.
Giles noted that the nature of the Siltcoos River is little current and no rapids along a three and a half mile long protected water trail that can be paddled in half a day.
“It flows through the heart of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area,” said Giles. “People come from all over to experience 32,000 acres of sand, forest, rivers and lakes amid the only temperate sand dunes in North America”
The Dunes NRA stretches more than 42 miles from Florence to Coos Bay and it is an Oregon landmark for outdoor recreation.
You may well wonder just where all the sand came from too.
“It came from the mountains,” said USFS spokesperson Gayle Gill. “The mountains in the Cascade range – thousands and thousands of years ago glaciers melted and carried the debris – sand sediments – to the ocean and deposited them out there. There are no rocky headlands to prevent the sand from coming back out of the ocean and so the waves and wind pushed it back up on the land and that’s what we have today.”
Many visitors plan vacation time at one of the oldest parklands in the state called Jesse Honeyman State Park, located just south of Florence.
Camping in the park’s campground reaches back nearly 80 years to the days of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) that was made up of thousand of young men from the east coast who built the park in 1933.
Our starting point was the USFS Lodgepole Wayside; a day site along the Siltcoos River and just a stone’s throw from Honeyman State Park.
Yet along the Siltcoos River it felt a million miles away from human hub-bub and noise.
The river zigs and zags sharply at low tide and many of the river bends are framed by huge sandbanks.
At ebb tide, we watched for logs and branches that were silent and sobering reminders that we had to negotiate on an adventurous trail.
“It courses from a narrow freshwater stream environment out to the estuary and close to ocean,” said Giles. “The character of the riverway changes quite a bit – like most coastal streams there will be a lot of branches and logs and woody debris in the stream.”
Cyndy Williams and her husband JC Campos had never done anything like this trip before, but they loved each minute of it.
The couple traveled from their home in Portland to be our guests on the daylong adventure.
You see, they won Travel Oregon’s annual “Grant’s Getaways Photo Contest” last spring and they selected this trip as their prize.
Williams noted that their winning photo was a stunning sunlit scene that she simply couldn’t resist:
“It is along a ‘Rails to Trails’ path on the Row River near Dorena Reservoir. It’s a really beautiful bike path and we took a lot of photos, but this was my favorite!”
As the pair paddled, they soon discovered that the Siltcoos River offered intimate moments where nature’s touch restored the soul.
“Ohhh, I am hooked,” noted JC with a smile. “Kayaking is now one of our new choices to get around Oregon.”
Before long, our downriver journey slowed across a much wider waterway with tall sedge grasses that seemed to wave us along from shore.
We noticed important warning signs along the estuary shore too – plus, roped areas that marked a beach closure in effect from March 15 to September 15.
It’s an important area to protect nesting sites for small shorebird called Snowy Plovers that are protected as endangered species.
We were soon three miles from the start and in the heart of the estuary – it was a view that offered sneak peeks across the sand of the crashing ocean surf.
We also noted varied shorebird species that were probing muck of the marshes – often they were right by our sides.
It is the sort of adventure that will set your clock back – guaranteed!
Perhaps to a time that will leave you refreshed and ready for more adventures. The Siltcoos River Canoe Trail is open anytime.
No permits are required to paddle the Siltcoos River Trail but a US Forest Service Northwest Forest Pass (available for day or annual purchase) is required at Lodgepole Wayside.
Central Coast Watersports in Florence provided our boats, paddles and PFD’s – they even delivered to our launch site in the Lodgepole Recreation Site and picked them up at the end of our trip.
The Oregon Cascade Mountains can satisfy your needs for exploration and adventure in so many ways: perhaps aboard a whitewater raft where thrills, chills and spills wait at each turn…or maybe with a rod and reel and the chance to land a trophy with each cast.
Or perhaps it’s something far simpler that can be found down a quiet forest service road in the Willamette National Forest where a bounty of berries waits for you right now.
USFS Spokesperson Jennifer O’Leary said that time is right: “A wonderful activity to enjoy with family or friends. It’s really great to see visitors out there enjoying themselves and tasting a little bit of mother nature.”
It is what I call “Huckleberry Hound Time" for my family and friends and we couldn’t be more pleased with this time of seasonal change in the forest.
It’s a favored time of year because no permit is required and there are no personal harvest limits either.
We take what we can use near the Twin Meadows area inside the Detroit Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest.
O’Leary’s best advice for the newcomer?
“Really get out on to the forest and explore because there are so many roads where the are huckleberry patches are nearby… if you see a huckleberry bush by the side of the road, chances are good there’s more right there, so get out there and look.”
There are nine species of berries on the forest, but two dominate this area: one is large and sweet, the other more red and tart.
We had no trouble finding plenty of bushes full of berries that are a bit like “candy drops.”
I often eat more than I pick as the berries are plentiful in areas of the forest that provide a sun–shade mix.
Lift up a branch and expose the underside and you’ll find an easier chore of picking the berries; especially if you have both hands free.
Soon, we are kitchen-bound with our bounty so to try a favorite recipe called “Huckleberry Crisp.”
It’s a simple recipe (see ingredients list below) that works well with the tart berries and best of all; it can be assembled and cooked in less than one hour.
Ingredients include 1/3 a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Mix the dry ingredients then add a tablespoon of lemon juice and one cup of huckleberry or blueberry juice and simmer in a pan.
Then add all of the berries – at least 4 cups – and pour all into a greased baking dish then add the crunchy topping on top.
For the topping, I say the “simpler the better:”
In a pan, mix together melted butter (about 1/3 a cup), 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour and cook all of the it together – stirring over low heat for two minutes – then add and thoroughly mix in 4 cups of cornflakes.
The topping goes atop the huckleberry mixture and then into the oven @350 degrees for no more than 30 minutes and the topping is crispy and crunchy.
There you have it!
It is simple as can be and a delicious reward for time well spent in the great Oregon outdoors.
While in the area, we also stopped along the Santiam River where Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept has converted long popular North Fork Santiam State Park from a day-use site to an overnight campground.
Park manager Bob Rea said, “It’s great to have a place to come to off the river and camp in a tent. We also added a group picnic shelter and a visitor can also make a site reservation. We have converted picnic sites and actually remodeled them to tent sites.”
There is a 2.5-mile long trail through the park and the best part is that more than a half-mile of the parkland includes river frontage.
Rea noted, “ It’s very peaceful and quiet and there aren’t very many sites – the over all experience that people have there is very satisfying.”
If you wish to enjoy a campfire at your site, there’s recent news on the firewood front that you should know about: invasive insects threaten Oregon forests.
Lisa Debruyckere, Oregon Invasive Species Council Coordinator, said that a new campaign with OPRD advises campers to avoid burning out of state firewood this summer:
“Buy it local. Keep it local. This is all about…and local to us is Oregon.”
That’s right! A new campaign encourages park users across Oregon to stick with sticks that come from Oregon because two insects called Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorn Beetle could infest Oregon forests and if they do the results could be devastating:
“If we get Emerald Ash Borer established in the state of Oregon, it could denude and decimate hundreds of thousands – if not millions of acres of forests.”
So heed the campaign’s words and “Buy it where you burn it.”
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup huckleberry or blueberry juice
4 cups huckleberries (slightly sweetened)
Topping (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a saucepan. Add lemon and huckleberry juices and stir until smooth. Cook over low heat until thickened and clear, stirring constantly. Stir in huckleberries and pour into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle topping over the huckleberry mixture. Bake for thirty minutes or until topping is crisp and golden brown. Serve warm or cold.
1/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups corn flakes
Melt butter in a saucepan. Combine sugar and flour and add to melted butter. Cook, stirring constantly over low heat for three minutes. Add cornflakes, mixing quickly until they are coated with syrup.
I am a big fan of Oregon’s little roads; you know, the ones without numbers.
Linn County has a few and sometimes these roadways let you set your clock back too – on a journey into unexpected bliss!
Bill Cockerell, President of the Covered Bridge Society of Oregon, recently joined me for an afternoon tour across Linn County to see and admire some of the county’s historic covered bridges.
“You think of a Covered Bridge,” noted Bill, “and you think of horses and buggies! You just want to relive that period of a hundred years ago…when times were slower. A romantic time, even if it is our minds – may not have been true, but it sure feels like it.”
It feels like a Huck Finn sort-of -world at Shimanek Covered Bridge – a gorgeous beauty decked out in “Navajo Red” colored paint and it spans Thomas Creek.
It is one of eight covered bridges in Linn County according to Cockerell, who said that most of the covered bridges were built in the 1930’s when big timber was abundant and cheaper to build.
“That ‘Navajo Red’ is the only one in Linn County of that color,” added Cockerell. “While inside this bridge it is painted white – that white on the inside, plus light coming through the louvered windows makes for better visibility and so it is safer.”
Safety is important these days because traffic roars past at a shattering pace – a far cry from slower days of the past century.
Still, there are other covered bridges that are off the beaten path and hint of bygone times.
For example, Hannah Covered Bridge is picture-postcard perfect!
This stunning whitewashed covered bridge was built in 1936 and offers a bit of a Norman Rockwell kind of American moment.
Cockerell said, “People just love this type of bridge because you can look out of it - you can see the fishermen downstream or people swimming too It really is nearly like walking across any uncovered bridge.”
Hannah Bridge may have you wondering, why did they cover the bridges in the first place?
Cocerell said it was simple economics!
“An uncovered bridge will last eight, ten years tops. But a covered bridge with a cedar roof could last forty or fifty years with proper maintenance.”
As you will see, there is plenty of water running under the Covered Bridges of Linn County, so don’t be surprised if you end up at ODFW’s Roaring River Hatchery.
This is a place that raises really whoppers – the kind with fins.
Seventy percent of Oregon’s catchable hatchery trout are raised at Roaring River Hatchery.
Tim Schamber, the Roaring River Hatchery Manager, provided a tour and explained the state’s program:
“The fun part of my job is making them aware and getting people involved in what we do here. So we try for interactive displays and exhibits…we try to put as much energy as possible toward that type of education.”
Last winter, we showed viewers how that energy was put into action when we visited a Visitor Friendly Hatchery and then a classroom full of enthusiastic students at Banks Elementary School.
You see, Roaring River Hatchery donates 100,000 trout eggs to hundreds of Oregon classrooms where the youngsters raise the eggs into baby fish.
It’s a successful and unique environmental education program called “Eggs to Fry.”
Not far from the Roaring River Hatchery, you’ll enjoy a chance to relax at Larwood Wayside – only site in the state where a river flows into a creek.
It’s called Crabtree Creek and it is where you will find Larwood Covered Bridge and it was built seventy years ago.
Bill said that he believes the Covered Bridges of Linn County will last even longer.
“I think they’re here to stay – for another hundred years at least – at least I hope so!”
He also noted that Oregon has more (49 authentic) Covered Bridges than anywhere else in the country, so it is something all Oregonians should be proud of so folks should get out to see and enjoy them.
When you travel east from Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley, be on the lookout for a “silver lining” in the high desert.
You may find it when you step aboard board a jet boat to travel up the Deschutes River and cast lures for silver-sided summer steelhead!
For when you talk summer adventure, the Deschutes River is a rite of passage for anyone who calls the Pacific Northwest home.
Since 1968, fishing guide Bob Toman has been steering anglers to the right spots on the Deschutes River.
He knows the river’s nooks, crannies and holding areas where the big fish live.
“There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of spots to fish,” noted the longtime angler. “Even though it can seem a crowded river at times, there’s always a place to find that you can fish – and there’s fish in all of them.”
It didn’t take long for fisherman Kevin Kaseberg to prove Toman right!
No sooner had Kaseberg cast his lure into the river’s current when a hard charging 8-pound steelhead flew across the river with the lure locked in its jaw.
The gleaming fish made several hard charging runs before Kevin was able to slide it up the riverbank.
Toman said he has lost track of the number of anglers he has helped discover the Deschutes and all of them love the river’s fishing reliability:
“One of the good things about the Deschutes is that the steelhead bite all sorts of things. If you get a strike and miss it or see one boil at your fly, stay right there and give it a half dozen more casts – you’ll get ‘em.”
Kevin and Patty Kaseberg enjoy the fishing and the dramatic scenery that the ribbon of river provides as it courses more than a hundred miles through the high desert to reach the Columbia River.
“The scenery truly is wonderful, said Kevin. “And it is great to get out and enjoy it.”
Patty added, “It’s like stepping out of the world into a peaceful, beautiful and restful place. It’s really kind of a magical place.”
It may be magical!
Anglers are each allowed a generous three-hatchery steelhead limit a day and they usually catch them, while all wild fish must go back.
Toman offered this piece of advice that he’s earned from decades of fishing the river:
“Well, I move and I move a lot! That seems to work because most of the fish get hooked in the first little bit when you start casting at a spot.So if you stay and pound, pound, pound the same spot for hours at a time, you don’t get as many.”
The “moving” part is a bonus and the reason I like to travel with Toman.
It’s my chance to drink in that special central Oregon scenery that is framed by vistas of wide-open spaces; my chance to reconnect with childhood memories of times and places that helped launch my angling passions more than half a century ago.
The timeless Deschutes River offers big surging rapids that churn to their own rhythms and challenge boaters who must pass thru safely; it’s a place only the experienced dare travel.
“It is a very technical river,” noted ODFW Biologist Rod French. “That’s especially true for power boaters. It is a big river with lots of volume and lots of ledges and you need to know where to go. You need to have some know-how here because you can get yourself in trouble in a hurry. Unless you’re experienced with that or been up it several times or with someone who has, it’s very difficult to read.”
You should wear a PFD when you’re going up the river too. The Deschutes has several Class 3 whitewater rapids and it’s the law to wear one when you’re underway.
If you travel to the Deschutes River, consider a longer stay at Deschutes River State Recreation Area that’s located near the river’s confluence with the Columbia River.
“This time of year, it’s the fishing that draws the crowds,” noted Bruce Meredith, OPRD Park Ranger. “The fishing has been phenomenal and people are scrambling to find spots. We have 32 sites with electricity and water, plus new shower facilities. We also have an additional 60 sites for tent camping or dry r-v camping. So there’s something for everyone!”
“It’s kind of an oasis,” added Meredith. “Folks are used to the desert’s dry landscape and they come here to discover that it’s lush and beautiful and right next to the river. It’s a parkland that takes your breath away.”
Bob Toman says it's all of that – plus, the chance to catch big steelhead - that brings him to the Deschutes River each summer.
And if you cross paths with Bob Toman in summer, chances are you’ll find his 11-year old sidekick –Cobey Pentecost - nearby too.
Cobey said that he had been his Grandad’s “steelhead student” for the past three summers. He is one lucky youngster and he is good fisherman too.
No surprise really! The young angler is learning the river from a living legend who knows the water and fishing strategies like the back of his hand.
“A couple weeks ago I told my Grandpa, ‘I never catch any fish’ and he said – ‘you’re not fishing with confidence,” noted the smiling youngster. “So Grandpa gave me a whole speech about staying confidant no matter what happens and not ten minutes later, I caught a fish. So I am confidant all the time.”
Patty Kaseberg agreed and added that there is much to love about steelhead fishing on the Deschutes River:
“I tell folks that once you have caught one, you’re hooked and you’ll be back. The Deschutes is simply irresistible.”
If you go, keep this in mind: a Deschutes River Boater’s Pass is required for all folks who travel the river in a motorized or non-motorized watercraft.
In addition, there are approximately 16 miles of graveled road on the east side of the river that is open to the public. The roadway is perfectly suited for hiking or a mountain bike ride to fish or camp along the Deschutes River.